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Interprofessional teamworking

In the field of healthcare, effective collaboration and interaction can have direct ramifications for patient care. For example, the Victoria Climbié inquiry (Laming Report, 2003) and the Francis Report (2013) both indicated the need to move towards collaborative teamwork, and the need for a review of professional education and training in the UK.

The modernisation of healthcare in recent years has initiated a move towards a team-based model of healthcare delivery. Poor teamwork skills in healthcare have been found to be a contributing cause of negative incidents in patient care, while effective teamwork has been linked to more positive patient outcomes.

Lyubovnikova and West (2013) cite the benefits of team-based working (TBW) in healthcare as: 

  • Reduced hospitalisation and costs
  • Higher patient satisfaction
  • Increased effectiveness and innovation
  • Multi‐disciplinary teams deliver high quality patient care and implement more innovations
  • Lower patient mortality
  • Reduced error rates
  • Reduced turnover and sickness absence


Challenges Associated with Interprofessional Teamworking

We tend to assume that teams view the teams in which they work in similar ways, they hold similar values and that they have the capabilities to change practice. However, this is not always the case and such invalid assumptions may lead to breakdown in communication and teamwork, and constitute a barrier in effective patient care.

A study assessing the cohesiveness of a multidisciplinary operating theatre (OT) found that nurses tended to view the team as being a unitary entity, while the surgeons and anaesthetists perceived the team as being made up of several sub-teams (Undre et al., 2006). Interprofessional teamwork and communication was deemed by the OT health professionals to be acceptable, with room for improvement. This research suggests that OT health professionals are not required to view themselves as a unitary body, in order to achieve acceptable levels of teamwork. However, this does not mean that shared understanding is not desired or encouraged, as this can lead to a barrier to the efficacy of interprofessional healthcare teams.

Pollard et al. (2004) examined attitudes towards collaborative learning both prior to and after gaining a qualification in a health science. Learners self-rated their communication and teamwork skills positively, and were favourably inclined towards interprofessional learning, but held negative opinions about interprofessional interaction. Older learners and those with prior experience in health or social care were more likely to hold negative attitudes towards interprofessional teamworking. However, Tunstall-Pedoe et al. (2003) found similar negative attitudes in medical learners who shared a foundation programme for medicine, radiography and nursing. This indicates that interprofessional interventions should probably be implemented at several levels during the education process.

Healthcare teams have been described as the centre of both the clinical education of new healthcare professionals and patient care (Lingard et al., 2002). The discourse that team members engage in (the verbal and non–verbal communication that they engage in during the course of both activities) is a key way in which new health professionals are socialised into teams (Haber and Lingard, 2001). During early participation, they obtain gradual responsibility and supervised involvement within the field, developing an overview of their profession, and an understanding of professional goals, values and limitations.

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